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An Early Taste of Fall in Far Western NC


It’s early fall in western NC again!! While we wait here in the piedmont for the leaves to change, the beautiful color transformation is already well underway in the mountains of NC, especially above 5000 ft. As I write this, color is moving down the mountains a little each day. This report is about a day trip taken 10/12/13. Gorgeous photos are beginning to pop up all over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Streamzoo, and Flickr! I sit at my lunch break enjoying these shots while flipping through my schedule and and trying to find some time for me to get out there. They are only bright and vibrant for a short time. If you are caught sleeping, you could wake to a sea of brown with bare trees everywhere.

A few weeks back, a friend of mine named Gray went along with me on a hike into the Mount Mitchell area. We saw several waterfalls from Roaring Fork, to Grassy Creek, to Linville Falls. We also did the short climbs to the Mount Mitchell summit and to the iconic Wisemans View overlook. He was exhausted, yet here he is back for more. I decided to start out right today in an all-you-can-eat place in Asheville. This way no one would be hiking hungry. The day was fairly loosely planned. My main goal was to get to Graveyard Fields. At over 5000 feet high, this location is usually one of the early peakers. The photos of this waterfall in peak season that I had seen already were gorgeous. Yes, we would head here, then go from there. First stop in Brevard, like most times is Looking Glass Falls. It was jam packed already on this Saturday morning, but we stopped anyway. This was actually Gray’s first time seeing this beauty. It would just be wrong to drive by this one and keep going.

After a good leg stretch and a few shots, it was time to tackle the US 276 climb to the parkway. I told him we didn’t have time for all of this today but on this road was the trailhead to Looking Glass Rock, the trailhead to Moore Cove Falls, Sliding Rock, the Pink Beds Trail and more. One could easily spend a day on US 276, but we were not….Once at the parkway, we headed south. This is feature packed section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and in the 10 to 12 miles or so it takes to get to NC 215, one could easily spend another day. On our way to Graveyard Fields, we stopped for some early fall color overlooking Looking Glass Rock.

There are a number of places to stop on the parkway for a look at Looking Glass Rock. If you are ever at the official Looking Glass Overlook and see it full of cars with no one there, that is because across the parkway is a trailhead that connects with the MST and leads to Skinny Dip Falls. No time for this today either, so southbound we were. In a few miles, the beautiful parkway view of Second Falls
appears. This is Graveyard Fields, and the frustration of parking here on a Saturday is elevated. Plan to park along side the parkway and walk to the attraction. Good news, a larger parking lot project is in the planning stage. Once here, it is a short hike down to Second Falls and man was it worth it.

Instead of hiking on to Upper Falls, I wanted away from the crowd so we headed south again, next stop was the Devils Courthouse. This climb was a tad tough on my friend but he made it just fine. Once up there, we must have spent 20 minutes enjoying the views.

As Gray enjoys his last moments on the Devils Courthouse, I was planning our next move. My fiancé had suggested taking him to Duponte. While I cringe at the idea of visiting Dupont on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Gray had never been, so that was the rough plan. We had to get there first which meant a ride down NC 215, then back to Brevard for lunch. NC 215, just like US 276 connects the Blue Ridge Parkway to US 64. While much less known, there is almost just as much to do. Some attractions we would pass by on this road are Dill Falls, Courthouse Falls, and a number of falls on NC 215 heading north. I decided to show Gray the falls at Living Waters. Here , the main attraction is the meeting of the North Fork French Broad River and Shoal Creek. They fall over the same ledge forming French Broad Falls and Mill Shoals Falls. It makes for a beautiful scene.

Gray enjoyed these falls and his waterfall list is beginning to grow. I knew of a few more falls downstream, so we hiked down the trail on the left side of the river. The next stop is an unnamed cascade, I like to call “Pancake Falls”. I chose this because the rock ledge this falls over looks like a perfect stack of 3 pancakes. Gray likes to call it Painful Falls, as he took an unplanned swim here walking down to the base. The rock was ice slick, and the next thing I knew, my friend was waist deep in the river. It was at a calm spot in the river so I helped him out, made sure he was ok, then tried hard not to chuckle a little. It was a good thing it was a warm day.

Just down stream was 1 more waterfall, a very unique one called Cathedral Falls. It was once known as Bird Rock Falls as the river crashes 25 feet into a cave like hole cut into a cliff nearly 100 feet high. I have seen fishermen here several times fishing the “cave”.

After this, it was back to Brevard, for some lunch, and to Walmart so Gray could have some dry clothes. Dupont awaited us…When we arrived, it was jam packed just as I had thought. I was pleased to see that the Hooker Falls parking area has now been doubled. There is also a bridge crossing the Little River that is now part of the Triple Falls Trail. These guys have been busy here. There were some other things in progress, so things are looking up for Dupont. Maybe some more movies??

We made the initial short walk to Hooker Falls, it was beautiful as ever. After that the trip to Triple Falls, and down the steps. I counted 79 people out on the middle rock. It was getting later in the afternoon, there had to easily twice that amount about mid day. We then went to High Falls. This is one of my favorites, and can only be truly enjoyed by seeing the view from above, then walking the trail to the base and getting up as close as safely possible. Then, there you can see, hear and feel the power of this 125 foot beauty. I wanted to keep on the Bridal Veil Falls, another favorite, but it was getting late and my buddy was about worn out. We had hiked about 7 miles this day and you got to know when to say when….lol It was a great day, the color was peaking at Graveyard Fields, but just some, sporadic color once we got down from the Parkway. Until next time…….. I leave you with shots from Dupont

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